Tuesday 9 September 2014
Japan 2-2 Venezuela
Although defensive shortcomings still creeped into view, Noel Sanvicente will have been buoyed by the improved attacking display he saw in Yokohoma’s Nissan Stadium as his side ended their Asian tour by twice coming from behind to finish with a respectable 2-2 draw.
(4-2-3-1): Hernández; González, Perozo, Vizcarrondo, Cichero; Rosales, Rincón (c); M. Rondón, Guerra, Seijas; S. Rondón.
Substitutions: Miku for Guerra (’66), Signorelli for Seijas (’76), Martínez for S. Rondón (’80) & Falcón for M. Rondón (’89).
The changes from last Friday’s game were Luis Manuel Seijas starting ahead of Josef Martínez and, in an attempt to avoid being overrun so frequently, Rosales surprisingly being moved forward to partner Rincón instead of Jiménez, with the right-back berth being given to the similarly versatile González. Franco Signorelli, as promised in the press by Sanvicente, made his international debut as a second-half substitute.
Further details of the two teams can be found here.
Though they found themselves immediately on the back foot from the kick-off, Sanvicente’s men recovered and, for the second game running, had a golden chance to take the lead within three minutes, as Seijas’s left-footed ball from the right found Vizcarrondo completely unmarked but the Nantes man directed his header wide from close-range. A let-off for the hosts who certainly were not granted as much space as the Koreans and were given a further glimpse of the Venezuelan threat when, on 11 minutes, Rosales struck a curling left-footed shot from just outside the area that Kawashima palmed out for corner.
Javier Aguirre’s men, with the likes of Honda and Kakitani in their side, gradually showed more of the attacking options they had at their disposal, yet while they did cause some nervy moments, it was evident that the South Americans had learned from the first game, often appearing more organised with more men behind the ball, doubling up on attackers and conceding less space.
Venezuela had several chances in the first half, with both Seijas and Guerra getting decent shots away but it was the partnership of the two Rondóns that offered the most potential, as they linked up to create the away side’s best chance of the first half after 29 minutes. Indeed, following some considerable pressing – a common feature of Venezuela’s display – the Japanese back line lost control of the ball 35 yards out and Salomón poked it forward to Mario who, on the edge of the area, turned Southampton’s Yoshida to find himself one-on-one against Kawashima. However, he could not quite shape his body enough to place it to the right of the goalkeeper, whose left shin saved his side as the ball went out for a corner.
The two Rondóns continued to create chances between them, yet one of their efforts in the 38th minute was sandwiched by two Japanese chances, the first of which was their best of the half as Kakitani ran onto a defence-splitting pass that Hernández was alert to, with his left leg blocking the Basel striker’s poke. The Valladolid goalkeeper saved the following attempt comfortably, bringing some composure to a hesitant area and overall, though he did indulge in at least one unnecessary punched clearance, he enjoyed a more assured performance than he did on Friday.
Despite all of the improvements, the two goals Venezuela conceded exposed some weaknesses that had been highlighted in the South Korea game. The first one came after 51 minutes following an attempted clearance from Perozo, whose header from the edge of his area was gratefully picked up by the youngster Muto just inside opposition territory and, with three defenders standing off him, he was allowed to charge forward, shape to shoot and then bury a left-footed shot from 20 yards out.
Deflating as this must have been, little more than five minutes had passed when Guerra intercepted a loose ball in his own half and embarked on an exuberant run all the way up the inside-right channel and into the Japanese area, where his left leg was taken away from him by Mizumoto to earn a penalty. Mario Rondón stepped up to level from the spot with a low shot straight down the middle that was identical to the one he scored in his last league match and ensured that his contribution to the team will be remembered as one of the highlights of this tour.
Although the experienced Venezuelan back line knows not to get complacent following a moment of elation, this did not stop them looking rather porous in the aftermath as just a few minutes later, a right-footed cross from the left by Inter’s Nagatomo was swung into the area where two players were completely unmarked, with Okazaki’s stabbed volley going just wide of the far post. A let-off, but not for long, as in the 66th minute with González out of position, Japan countered down the left with Okazaki speeding away just inside the area and crossing for the wide-open Shibasaki to arrive late and confidently strike home a half-volley on his international debut.
Four minutes later, Japan, ranked 44th in the world to Venezuela’s 29th, nearly matched 57th-placed South Korea’s scoreline when Honda’s low curling free-kick swerved around the wall but, mercifully for the beaten Hernández, hit the post and came out.
However, out of nowhere and with Venezuelans fearing that their back line may succumb to their opponents’ increased confidence, Cichero popped up a minute later on the inside-left with a strike from over 30 yards out that should have been bread and butter for Kawashima. However, the experienced Standard Liège goalkeeper failed to catch the ball, instead embarrassing himself with a hot potato routine and fumbling it over the line to cap off a fairly poor exhibition of goalkeeping that has been on display in the two tour matches.
With Japan temporarily humiliated and their momentum abruptly halted, Venezuela found themselves back on level terms and were not to yield from this position for the rest of the game as a few changes that inevitably took something out of the game were made, the most notable of which was Empoli’s Signorelli making his international debut in the 76th minute. Thus, Sanvicente’s team looked assured as they held on for a creditable draw against World Cup opposition, salvaging some pride when a repeat of their Korean encounter loomed and providing fans with some optimism – most notably, the integration of Mario Rondón into the set-up and his link-up play with Salomón – ahead of next summer’s Copa América.
*UPDATE: 15 November 2014 – This 2-2 friendly draw with Japan has since been changed by FIFA to a 3-0 victory for Japan due to Venezuela illegally fielding Salomón Rondón, despite having been sent off in the previous game. This fact went completely unreported in the Venezuelan media and was actually first reported on this site’s Twitter account.